Labour Party says Harris-led Team Unity Government’s process to build the new BHS “a sham”

Erasmus Williams:  

The opposition St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) said Saturday, the Team Unity Government’s process for the construction of the new Basseterre High School (BHS) on the water table in St. Kitts is a sham and the only area of transparency “is the dishonesty, deception and lies and the constant way in which the government tries to mislead the public.”

The SKNLP in series of articles headlined: “Debunking Team Unity’s les and deception agenda” pointed to several inconsistencies during the recent press conference by Dr. Harris and previous news releases.

“When asked for an update on progress on the Basseterre High School, this is what Minister of Education, Hon. Shawn Richards said: ‘the government is advancing the process, from idea, to drawing to site selection. There are various processes that the Basseterre High School has to go through, based on the MOU, the drawings and the Environmental Impact Assessment will have to be submitted to Public Works and the relevant authorities. In the next 15 days this process will be completed then the drawings will be brought to tender for the actual construction.’

The Party said the response by Mr. Richards has prompted several questions:

Does Team Unity mean to say that all of a sudden there is a ‘process’ to the construction of the new school? He has in the past said the new school on the Royal Basseterre Aquifer was a 

foregone conclusion.

Does Team Unity mean to say that the Environmental Impact Assessment, which they have been promising to complete since July 2017 will actually be done?

Doesn’t an Environmental Impact Assessment have to take place before the land is cleared and design the plan?

And doesn’t the law require an open and consultative process which involves the public before any decision can be taken?

Does Team Unity mean to say that the drawings “will be brought to tender” now? At this stage when they have already signed a design-build Memorandum of Understanding with Innotech Services Ltd., the firm from Barbados that was contracted and paid EC$10 million to build the temporary facility at Taylors?

So how does that actually work? First you sign the contract with the company you want, then you create a show that you are opening the bidding process to tender? Really? Then what becomes of the binding contract that they already made with Innotech?

The SKNLP said Richards needs to be reminded of his words, noting that in two press releases issued by the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service (SKNIS), on July 20th and 24th 2017, Mr. Richards made it clear from the outset that given the “permanent closure” of the BHS at Victoria Road, his government had made a “landmark decision to construct a new facility to house the new BHS.”

He went further to say that the government had established “a number of working committees to spearhead the preliminary task in the process of constructing the new BHS…After the various sites were selected…the Cabinet of the Federal Government approved the site of the new Basseterre High School at Ponds Extension in East Basseterre. The size of the parcel of land designated for building the new BHS is approximately 14 acres.”

According to Richards at this press conference, “following the decision, Cabinet ordered the formation of the steering committee for the construction of the new school…The terms of reference were prepared…by the steering committee and submitted to Innotech who has prepared the preliminary drawing of the proposed new Basseterre High School.”

On May 25, 2017, Mr. Cromwell Williams, Director of Public Works visited the “site of the new Basseterre High School, Ponds Estate,” and reassured the public that the site had been “properly assessed and all checks have been carried out to ensure that the environment remains safe”.

The same press release reads: “On May 25, Mr. Williams, along with the technical team appointed by the government, made his way to the site, which is at the southern end of the Basseterre Aquifer.” It goes on to say that “during the site visit, contractors for the BHS project, Innotech Services Limited, dug test pits to get an idea of the type of soil that is in the area. This will help the contractors in their structural design of the school. Anthony DaSilva, Chairman of Innotech and George Holder, Project Coordinator for the new BHS were on site.”

“We’ve just today presented a conceptual design for the government appointed technical team to review…What’s next is to get through that process in the next couple of months and see how quickly we can potentially get on site and see the new Basseterre High School under construction,” it cites Mr. DaSilva as saying.

The May 25, 2017 press release ends by saying, “The director of Public Works mentioned that Innotech Services Limited was the company which similarly designed and constructed the temporary BHS facilities at Taylor’s Range. He said that the government therefore decided to invite the company to likewise undertake the design and construction for the permanent Basseterre High School.”

The SKNLP further pointed out that on March 14, 2018, Mr. Richards at a town hall meeting at the St. Johnston Community Center that said: “We have been speaking with the contractor to ensure that as soon as possible you get your brand new Basseterre High School…the Minister of Public Infrastructure can verify that about two weeks ago we got an update from the contractor in terms of where we are with the Basseterre High School. We got an update on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and so we know that progress is being made relative to the construction of the Basseterre High School.”

Accusing the Team Unity Government of insulting the intelligence of the people of this country and underestimate their ability to connect the dots and put two and two together, the SKNLP said the TUG needs to be reminded that universal free education at the primary and secondary level happened in this country in 1962 not 2002.

“The fact of the matter is that Team Unity, led by Dr. Harris, could care less about the legitimate concerns of the citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis about constructing the new Basseterre High School on the sensitive, protected area of the Basseterre Valley Aquifer.

Team Unity made a campaign promise to build the school on the Aquifer, and this is where they intend to build it regardless of the science, regardless of the advice of local experts, regardless of the fact that the majority of Kittitians do not support. That most Kittitians are against it was confirmed by an online petition that was circulated by a concerned citizen where 650 people said that they were dead set against school being constructed on the Aquifer.

This contrasted with the mere 150 people who signed the government’s copycat petition to “build a new school”, even though the petition that they circulated withheld the fact that they really meant to build the new school on the Aquifer.

The SKNLP said this demonstrates that the people of St. Kitts and Nevis are seeing right through the government’s deceptive shenanigans and are well aware of their attempts to circumvent the laws of the St. Kitts and Nevis.

“The facts are that Team Unity intends to build the school on the Aquifer, with or without the consent of the general public, with or without an EIA and the contract to design and construct the new Basseterre High School has already been given away to a foreign company, thereby denying local architects and contractors the opportunity to compete in a transparent bidding process. The construction of the school on the Aquifer was always a foregone conclusion. Team Unity never intended to follow the process mandated by law under the Development Control and Planning Act (2001). The EIA that will be delivered in 15 days is just a sham and so is any tendering process that will follow.

The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party has vowed that the construction of new Basseterre High School will be the undoing of this deceptive government, and based on all polls the majority of Kittitians are with us. When it comes to the all-important matter of risking the irreversible contamination of the country’s main water supply, the government MUST subject itself to the will of the people.”